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SSNS Home > Home & Community > Aboriginal Roots > Frontier Sources > Frontier Families > Muchikekwanape


Frederick Muchikekwanape aSo"unZt (Mā-chi-ki-h-kwah-nā-p)

Researched by Frontier School Division
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Muchikekwanape is the modern spelling of a Norway House surname that dates back to at least 1813, when it was the given name of a hunter in the Upper Nelson region on the north side of Lake Winnipeg. The name first appeared on the “Indian Debt” list at West Winnipeg Factory, where Muchikekwanape went regularly to trade his furs for European goods. West Winnipeg Factory was a Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) post, known also as Jack River House, and it was located on an island opposite the mouth of the Jack or Gunusao River, probably Mission Island, which is within the urban boundaries of Norway House today.

When the clerk at West Winnipeg Factory first recorded “Misakickaneb” on the Indian debt list in 1813,[1] he wrote it as he heard it, because the aboriginal hunters living in the region had no written language. Indeed the name was transcribed in many different ways in the coming decades,[2] a practice that could have permanently obscured the correct form and pronunciation of the original, except for the work of the brilliant linguist and missionary James Evans, who gave the Cree language written expression at Norway House in the early 1840s. The Cree syllabics that he developed became the means of preserving the aboriginal names of his converts, many of whom simply added a “Christian” name to the one by which they were already known.[3] As a result, after his baptism in 1846, aSo"unZt [May-chi-ki-h-kwah-nay-p(b)] became Frederick (or Roderick) aSo"unZt, a synthesis of the old and new that recognized the worth of both.

The clerk who wrote “Misakickaneb” in 1813 did the best he could under the circumstances, and it is unlikely that aSo"unZt paid the slightest attention to how his name was written. His thoughts would have been focused on getting the best returns for the furs that he brought to the post, so that he would have sufficient goods and ammunition to carry on the hunt. He did not hunt alone, of course, as the aboriginal hunters of the boreal forest usually hunted in family groups.

We know from James Sutherland’s 1815 Report on the fur trade at Jack River House that there were twenty-six families, consisting of thirty-four men and boys, who were coming to the post at that time.[4] They were not the original inhabitants of the area, who Sutherland thought may have “migrated westward,” citing as evidence the several families who had moved in recent years to Swan River and Cumberland House because of the “poverty” of the region about Jack River House.

Sutherland was partly right. There had been a recent migration westward, but the migrants were probably not the “original” inhabitants, most of whom died during the smallpox epidemic of 1781-1782. Instead, they were newcomers, mainly from among fifty or sixty families that had deserted the Hudson Bay lowlands around York Factory after 1811. As such, they were only temporary residents, who had paused briefly in the area before moving on.

According to Sutherland, the people they left behind at Jack River consisted of two distinct groups. One was from the “sea coast about York Factory,” and undoubtedly included members of the aforementioned fifty or sixty families. In the 1823 Census, this “tribe” was specifically identified as “Maskegon,” meaning Swampy Cree from the lowlands. The Maskegon “hunting grounds” were to the west, north, and northeast of Jack River Post.[5]

The other group mentioned by Sutherland in 1815 came from “the headwaters of Severn River,” and was further described in the 1823 Census at Norway House as the “Pelican Tribe” with its primary “hunting grounds” to the east and south-east of Norway House.[6] It was to this group that aSo"unZt belonged.[7]

It is not clear just when the Pelicans arrived in the vicinity of Jack River, but they were a branch of the Northern Ojibway, who began moving west from Lake Huron to the region north of Lake Superior in about 1530.[8] Little is known about that migration in its initial stages, because it predated European contact. However, the trek extended over two hundred and fifty years, with the Northern Ojibway pushing further and further to the northwest either removing, displacing, or absorbing the Cree who had lived there previously.[9] By the 1780s, they were firmly established as far west as Lake Winnipeg and north to Island Lake.

Although the specific boundary between them and the Cree at Jack River was not clearly defined in any record of the time, it is likely that it corresponded closely to the “hunting grounds” of each group as described in the Norway House HBC Report of 1823. Even the devastating smallpox epidemic of 1782 is unlikely to have altered that boundary significantly. Any of the Upland Cree that remained in the region would have been absorbed by Maskegons or Swampy Cree moving inland up the Hayes and Nelson Rivers from York Factory after 1782.[10] Certainly, by 1823 the Maskegons were dominant in the lands north and west of those river systems.[11] Similarly, new migrations by the Northern Ojibway after the epidemic would have occurred mainly to the east of Jack River and south along the eastern shore of Lake Winnipeg, where the Northern Ojibway were dominant by 1823.

As might be expected along the boundaries of two distinct linguistic and cultural groups, there was considerable genetic and linguistic mixing, a phenomenon that was certainly evident at Norway House. Commenting in 1852 on the Norway House dialect, Ojibway schoolmaster Peter Jacobs, said,

I am not a competent judge of this mixed language of Ojibway, Cree, and Swampy. The Cree and Swampy are nearer kin to each other than either to the noble and majestic Ojibway.”[12]

Jacobs, an Ojibway from the Great Lakes region, detected two and possibly three influences in the language, the likely results of lengthy intermingling between the Upland and Swampy Cree and the Pelicans along the borders of their territories.[13] This mixing was exemplified by aSo"unZt himself, who seemed to have had family ties among the Cree as well as the Northern Ojibway.

There is no specific information available about aSo"unZt and his family prior to 1813, when his name first appeared on the Indian Debt List at Norway House. In any case, that debt list was in alphabetical order, which makes it impossible to sort out possible family connections from it. However, from 1814 until 1822, the lists were not alphabetical; instead, the hunters appear to have been grouped according to their hunting ties. Since men tended to hunt with their fathers or brothers, these lists can provide vital clues to family relationships among them.

In every instance but one during those years, the name “Misakickaneb,” or some variation of the same, was recorded immediately below that of “Keekeekuthinish,” an association suggestive of a father/son relationship.[14] However, the 1823 Census described “Kee kee wa thinish” as “Maskegon”; while “Miskika nib” was “Pelican,” so they could not have been father and son to each other. Rather, the relationship was more likely to have been father-in-law/son-in-law. Weight is given to this interpretation by the fact that it was customary for a man to hunt with his father-in-law for a season after his marriage to the senior hunter’s daughter.[15] Generally, after the birth of the first child, the son-in-law returned to his own father’s hunting band. However, since aSo"unZt remained with Kee kee wa thinish for many years, he may have had no other family.

This interpretation is further strengthened by the apparent age difference between aSo"unZt and Kee Kee wa thinish, who was already an influential leader as early as the 1790s.[16] Kee Kee wa thinish had also hunted in the region north of Jack River for at least thirty years before he was listed on the 1823 Census at Norway House; therefore, the inference that he was older than aSo"unZt is probably correct. This evident age difference between the two men argues for a father/son-in-law relationship dating back to at least 1815, but it does not explain why they came together in the first place. For possible clues to answer that question, one must go back in time.

There was no law against a “Pelican” becoming the son-in-law of a “Maskegon,” but hostility between the two groups along the boundaries of their territories would ordinarily have been a deterrent to such alliances.[17] However, a devastating event of some kind can break down barriers between people, and the smallpox epidemic of 1782 would have done that on the north side of Lake Winnipeg.[18] This deadly infection was introduced to the Lake Winnipeg region in the winter of 1781-1782 by Northern Ojibway and Nelson River Cree hunters returning from a trade trip to Cumberland House. By July of 1782, most of these hunters and their families were dead, and of five infected families of Nelson River Cree, only four women and seven children remained.[19] In the subsequent regrouping, both Cree and Northern Ojibway family remnants would have became “followers” of the few hunters that survived, creating bands of mixed lineage that would have further reduced social barriers. Kee kee wa thinish was certainly one of the surviving hunters, and his band may have adopted Northern Ojibway survivors after the epidemic.[20] If aSo"unZt grew up in such a band, where “Maskegons” and “Pelicans” rubbed shoulders daily, it would have been perfectly natural for him to have chosen a Cree wife.[21]

Another possibility is that aSo"unZt arrived in the region with Northern Ojibway Pelicans some years after the epidemic. In the 1823 Census, aSo"unZt was listed, not with Kee kee wa thinish, but with “Peke kan,” a “Pelican” hunting at “Cross Lake.” aSo"unZt was described as Peke kan’s “1st son,” but in fact he was Peke kan’s son-in-law.[22] At first sight, this would seem to contradict the argument that aSo"unZt was a son-in-law of Kee kee wa thinish, but in fact it does not. In 1823, aSo"unZt had two wives. A careful analysis of existing records suggests that one of those wives was a daughter of Kee kee wa thinish. The same records indicate that the other wife was a daughter of Peke kan.

It is not certain when Peke Kan began to hunt at Cross Lake. He was an old man in 1823, quite possibly eighty years of age or older, a “Pelican” who had moved west with other Northern Ojibway from the “headwaters of the Severn River.” At least, that was what the Reports of 1815 and 1823 claimed. There were no other details provided as to when, how, or by what route that migration occurred, but there are records elsewhere that contain tantalising clues, especially as to the possible route that Peke Kan himself took. In 1796, for example, “Peekekan and his Son” were mentioned in a letter that Joseph Colen wrote to John Ballenden at Fort Severn, noting that they were the only “Bungee Indians” to visit York Factory that season.[23] The letter does not state from where Peke Kan came, but the Upper Nelson is certainly a possibility.

If Peke Kan was in the Upper Nelson by 1796, he may have arrived there from the south. At first glance, Portage de L’ile seems a long way from the Hayes and Nelson rivers, but in the 1700s, this HBC fort was on a major river route connecting the region north of Lake Superior to Fort William and to Lake Winnipeg as well. It was here on 27 March 1795 that “an Indian named Pe,ke,cawne,cap-po” arrived with furs worth twenty Made Beaver.[24] Although we do not have proof that this was the same man as Peke Kan, the names are similar enough to be provocative. Could Peke Kan have travelled via Portage de L’Ile and the Winnipeg River to Lake Winnipeg and the Nelson River System sometime between 1795 and 1796?

It is indeed quite possible. In the summer of 1768, “Captain Pickican” stopped at Henley House on the Albany River both on his trip down to Fort Albany on James Bay and on his return.[25] Evidently, his hunting grounds were somewhere in the uplands of the Albany River system at that time. Not only was the Upper Albany connected by portage to the headwaters of the Severn River to the Northeast, the region from which the Pelicans apparently came, but it was also connected to the southwest via the well-travelled English River to Portage de L’Ile, which was in turn connected to Lake Winnipeg by the Winnipeg River.

In the 1790s there was plenty of trade activity along the Albany and English River Systems, the Winnipeg River, and around Lake Winnipeg itself. Montreal traders, including those of the recently formed North West Company (NWC), competed with the Hudson’s Bay Company for the loyalty and furs of the aboriginal hunters along these trade routes. Also, as they moved from one location to another, the traders often took along local hunters with them to assist them in the new location. The HBC trader John Best certainly used this strategy.[26] Thus, Peke Kan and his followers may have moved along the English River-Winnipeg River route to Lake Winnipeg with the HBC traders.

On the other hand, since Peke Kan was not mentioned by name in the extant HBC post records of Lake Winnipeg in the 1790s, he may have been hunting for the opposition. Certainly he had traded with the Montreal-based fur trade companies at times in the past, so he may have been enticed to trap for them in the Lake Winnipeg Region.[27] The NWC trader William McKay had a post at Jack River during the 1790s as well as a temporary outpost at Cross Lake, where Peke Kan was living in 1823. Therefore, it is quite possible that McKay encouraged him to settle in that area. However, Peke Kan went where he could get the best terms for his furs. That would account for his visit to the HBC post at York Factory in 1796. It does not explain the route he followed to get there, but if he were already in the Cross Lake area by 1796, it would have been relatively easy for him and his son to travel to York Factory via the Bigstone, Fox, and Hayes Rivers. It is plausible, but we do not know for sure.

Nevertheless, small clues, like that visit to York Factory, are vital to a reconstruction of the pre-1812 life of Peke Kan and of Kee kee wa thinish as well. Combined with other information recorded in fur trade journals, accounts, and correspondence, they also provide a glimpse into the possible early years of aSo"unZt, who had a long association with both men. Additional evidence may even pinpoint the time when those associations were reinforced by marriage. The Indian Debt Lists between 1814-1822 at Norway House strongly suggest that aSo"unZt had become a son-in-law of Kee kee wa thinish sometime between 1813 and 1815.[28] Also, after the summer of 1819, Pekekan was listed directly after Kee kee wa thinish and aSo"unZt, suggesting that aSo"unZt had married one of Pekekan’s daughters sometime between 1818 and 1819.

Taken together, the bits and pieces of information about aSo"unZt and his associations begin to fall into place, and a plausible picture of his life emerges. He may indeed have been a member of a group of Northern Ojibway Pelicans, who lived in the region about Jack River and experienced the smallpox epidemic of 1781-82. Or, maybe he arrived in the 1790s from the south with hunters from the Upper Albany, who had been enticed by Canadian traders to trap for them in the vicinity of Jack River. On the other hand, he may have travelled in from the Island Lake country, possibly via Oxford House and the Hayes River.[29] Whatever his origins, aSo"unZt was in the Jack River region by 1812 and remained nearby throughout the remainder of his life.


Possible Migration Routes Northern Ojibway Pelicans
In summary, "Pickican," with whom aSo"unZt (Mā-chi-ki-h-kwah-nā-p) was later associated, was probably from the upper reaches of the Albany and/or Severn river systems. He can be traced back to Henley House on the Albany River in 1768 and possibly travelled west via the English and Winnipeg Rivers to Lake Winnipeg, reaching the Upper Nelson in about 1796, when he made a brief trip downriver to York Factory. aSo"unZt (Mā-chi-ki-h-kwah-nā-p) may have followed this route as well. On the other hand, he may have travelled from an earlier homeland in the Upper Severn to Lake Winnipeg, perhaps by Poplar River or Jack River, or maybe via Island Lake to the Hayes River and upriver to Norway House. Another possibility is that he did not migrate at all, but was descended from earlier Pelican migrants who had survived the 1782 smallpox epidemic on the north side of Lake Winnipeg.


In 1821, the amalgamation of the North West and Hudson Bay Companies brought competition between them to an end, and the trade strategies employed by Peke Kan, and Kee kee wa thinish as well, were no longer possible.[30] The reorganised HBC could now dictate its own terms for the furs, without fear of losing business, a situation that was resented by the local hunters, but endured. It was not the only change. The trading post at Jack River was closed, replaced by Norway House, which had been established at Warren’s Landing in 1814, where it remained until 1826, when it was moved further north to an island adjacent to the one on which Jack River Post formerly stood.

The first clear description of aSo"unZt’s family and family ties was recorded in the 1823 Census of Norway House District conducted by Joseph McGillivray, the post master that year. “Miskika nib,” a member of the “Pelican tribe,” had two wives and four daughters in 1823. He was described as the first son of Pekekan, another “Pelican,” and both men were hunting at “Cross Lake.”[31] These men also traded at Norway House in the winter of 1823. On the 22 November 1822, for instance, McGillivray wrote:

Before breakfast Pekakan and wife came to the Ho[use]. – he had about 15 Skins in rats and minks, which he traded for dry Goods. – the old fellow is tented about 4 days march from this – and from his information I should imagine to be in the vicinity of Split Lake. His son in law Mis-a Ka Kaneb has 4 Skins of this credit at the same time the old man left him.[32]

As McGillvray was new to the region, his information about its geography was noticeably vague, so the location where “Mis-a Ka Kaneb” and his father-in-law were tenting was guesswork at best. However by March, he was able to be more specific.

Mis a Ka Keneb arrived – but owing to the distance of his lodge and soft snow – left his skins behind, but he tells me he has most of his credits – relying on this assurance he got a few more on debt, - They are tenting about the little Winnipeg.[33]

The “little Winnipeg,” known today as Molson Lake, was located to the north-east of Norway House, and some distance from Cross Lake, where the 1823 Census said Peke Kan’s and aSo"unZt’s “hunting grounds” were. There was no explanation for this discrepancy, but McGillivray may have used the term “Cross Lake” to identify the entire region north of the HBC post at Norway House, which would then have included the “little Winnipeg” or Molson Lake. Interestingly, Molson Lake bordered the hunting lands of Oxford House Cree, from which three of aSo"unZt’s sons-in-law came, suggesting that he trapped in that area for some time.[34]

Although aSo"unZt probably spent many winters in the region of Molson Lake, he wasn’t always there. For instance, on 10 February 1831, “Two Indian women arrived from MisKiKunibs Tent, brought the two thys [thighs] of a Rein Deer,”[35] and on February 21, “Castatag arrived from across the Lake - brought 20 MB in Furs belonging to himself and 11 from MeskieKunib.”[36] It is not clear from the records, whether aSo"unZt remained in the vicinity of the post for any length of time, but he was back there in May and again in June to trade for goods.[37] In September, he was in with “dried Moose meat” and a hand that had been “very much shattered by the bursting of his gun.”[38]

Accidents with guns were commonly reported in the HBC records, and they could spell disaster for any hunter who lived on the edge of starvation most of the time. However, it did not seem to have affected aSo"unZt unduly that winter, when he was probably back at Molson Lake.[39] On 21 June 1832, he and “3 Oxford House Indians” arrived at Norway House, where aSo"unZt was supposed to remain to look after the HBC dogs for the summer. The plan was to remove the dogs from the post to an island “about ten miles” from Norway House, but shortly after the Company boat returned from delivering the dogs to the island “the Dogs likewise came back.”[40]

Whether the Company was able to make use of aSo"unZt’s services that summer is unknown, but he did continue to hunt for them the following winter.[41] It probably wasn’t easy for him, as he had two wives and several children by this time, the eldest of whom were daughters, which meant that aSo"unZt had no sons of an age to be of much assistance. By February 1834, however, he had acquired the services of a son-in-law, a young man from Oxford House named “Napesees,” who was in all likelihood the husband of his eldest daughter.[42] Undoubtedly the addition of this young man to his family reduced aSo"unZt’s burdens considerably, but even with this extra help, life was precarious.

On 12 January 1836, for instance, a HBC journalist at Norway House recorded that “MisKeecunibs wife came in for something to eat as they are in a miserable state of starvation.”[43] An entry for the same date in a duplicate journal adds further information on the family circumstances that winter. It reads,

MissaKeegunib wife & a Boy arrived Begging for a few fishes which she got. They have lost one of their Children who died a few days ago. There are Several Other poor wretches laying about the place who have now Exhausted the few fish they collected in the fall, and has no means now of providing for themselves.[44]

On April 26, aSo"unZt was back at the post “with 11 Skins in Furs being his whole winters hunt.”[45] It was a meagre return for the goods the HBC post had supplied him in the fall, but as the second journalist explained, “This Indian had in general to make a pretty good hunt, but has been unfortunate this year, always complaining of sickness.”[46]

Illness of any kind could spell disaster for a hunter and his family, and by long experience Aboriginal hunters of the boreal forest had learned to forge alliances to ensure their family’s survival. This was illustrated the following day, when the same journalist recorded, “Supplied Miskakeekunip & Keagsess with some ammunition & tobacco, and they are to pitch of[f] tomorrow, and join old Necaway at a short distance from here having learnt that he has killed three moose [a] short [time] ago by the hard crust on the snow.”[47]

“Necaway“ was either a son or son-in-law of Kee kee wa thinish, so he was a near relation of aSo"unZt, and “Keagsess” was an Oxford House man, one of whose sons later married a daughter of aSo"unZt. Such ties were not unusual among the small number of aboriginal families hunting for the post at Norway House, and they further strengthened the bonds between families that regularly shared their resources with one another. After all, in the uncertainty of the hunting economy, it could be anyone’s turn the next time to cry out to a neighbour for help.

The precarious circumstances that dogged most hunters in the Hudson Bay region in the first years of the nineteenth century had many causes. Overhunting, unseasonably cold weather in the first decades, the HBC monopoly after 1821, and growing population were probably all factors that contributed to hard times. In such circumstances, it is not surprising that the Cree and Pelicans of Norway House began to question old values and ways of doing things. A catalyst for this shift was the emergence of a Christian evangelical movement that developed at Red River after the establishment of the Church of England Mission there in 1820. Converts at Red River, including people who were related to the Norway House hunters, spread the word among their friends and relatives, particularly during the summer months when the freight boats went back and forth between Norway House and the Red River Settlement.[48] The Norway House people became increasingly interested in this new religious movement, and a few of them moved south to Red River where there were missionaries to provide instruction.

To curb this trend, at Norway House and elsewhere, an alarmed HBC authorised the establishment of Christian missions at strategic points throughout its vast fur trade territory. As a result, Norway House was chosen in 1840 as headquarters for a Wesleyan Methodist mission under the superintendence of the Rev. James Evans. However, the first missionary work was done by the Rev. Robert T. Rundle, who arrived in June of 1840 and spent most of the summer at Norway House. The local people flocked to his meetings, having been well prepared by their friends and relatives at Red River, and by the time of Rundle’s departure for missionary work further west, he had baptised more than eighty people.[49] The fledgling Christian community continued to grow after the arrival of James Evans, and the feared exodus to Red River never occurred. The HBC strategy had worked, but as positive as the transformation of religious values was generally perceived, it nevertheless represented a difficult transition, especially for men like aSo"unZt.

During Rundle’s brief stay at Norway House, aSo"unZt was away from the post, but members of his immediate family were present and attended Rundle’s meetings. One of them, a daughter named Flora, was particularly influenced by the Christian message, and she became one of the most fervent of Rundle’s converts.[50] The young missionary took particular notice of her at the service he held at the Indian village on the evening of July 17. Because she was “in great distress...weeping....on account of her sins,” Rundle prayed with her, asking that God “send her the comforter & bless her with a present salvation.” The following Monday, July 20, she “went out into the woods to pray to Jesus & her heart was opened.”[51] Her despair was replaced by peace and happiness, and she yearned to share what she had found with other members of her family. The first to come under her influence was a younger sister named Mary, who was baptised along with one of her brothers on August 16.[52] However, as important as her brothers and sisters were, “her great anxiety was about her mother who lived at a distance & had not heard the good news.”

We have no record of how her parents reacted, when they first heard the “good news” from their daughter Flora, but it would be six years before they were baptised. The problem was that aSo"unZt had two wives, a circumstance that barred him from Methodist baptism until he had set one of them aside. Perhaps the best indication of the character of this man was that he never did so. After all, they had been his companions for nearly thirty years, borne his children, and shared his trials. To set one of them aside would have been difficult for any honourable man. However, fate intervened in the summer of 1846 during a measles epidemic that struck the Christian community of Norway House with particular force. Among the dead was “Jane,” who was described as “former wife of old Ma-mi-ki-kwah-na-p” by the Rev. William Mason, when he baptised the ailing woman on July 12.[53] But, in fact, she was not a “former” wife, as aSo"unZt never repudiated her. This was merely the justification for the baptism of a dying woman, who gave birth to a stillborn infant that evening and succumbed to measles before the week was out.[54] Mason said as much in his report to the Secretaries of the Wesleyan Missionary Society on 15 December 1846, when he wrote that “Old Majekequanab who had two wives after losing one by the Measels, became a Christian.” “Long had this poor man withstood the claims of the cross” continued Mason, “but he was at last broken down, & yielded himself to the Lord.”[55] In point of fact, he held out until one of his wives died, hardly an indication of a man in retreat.

On Sunday, 26 July 1846, just a week after the burial of his wife Jane, “Frederic” aSounZt, his wife “Lucy,” and four children, Sarah, Jane, Rebecca, and Ralph were baptised by William Mason.[56] Although they were described as Lucy’s children, one or more of them may have been Jane’s. However, since Jane was now dead, Mason may have considered Lucy the only mother they would have in future and accordingly recorded her name for all of them. Proper identification is impossible, because we simply do not know Mason’s thinking, or lack thereof, in this instance. This is a problem elsewhere, too, as the following example will illustrate.

In a letter dated 27 January 1847, Mason told Donald Ross, “Old Maje-ke-qua-nab has just left us, after a friendly visit, he takes with him on his return to his hunting ground Amos’ wife and John Nahpases’ wife to see their Mother.”[57] Amos’s wife was Mary, who was baptised shortly after her sister Flora in 1840.[58] The wife of Nahpases is more difficult to identify, because two of aSounZt’s daughters married brothers with the same given names and only a slightly different surname. One of them, whose first name is unknown at present, was married to “Nahpasis,” who was described as a son-in-law of aSounZt on the 1838 Census of Norway House and later baptised as John Napasis.[59] The other was Eliza, who was married in 1846 to John Napase, who was in all likelihood a brother of John Napases.[60] If Mason’s knowledge of Cree was sufficient to discern and acknowledge in his letter the subtle difference between the two surnames, then identification seems straightforward. It would probably be the wife of John Nahpases, who was going to visit “her mother.” But if he did not make the distinction, or thought the distinction irrelevant, then it could be either the first woman or Eliza. Even if we knew the identity of both women, it would be insufficient evidence that they were daughters of Lucy, the surviving wife. In a polygamous household with two wives and two mothers, the children may have viewed each of the wives as a mother in some sense, and all the more so if their biological mother had recently died.

In addition to the eight children already mentioned, there were six more recorded in the church registers. Agnes was baptised in 1843 at the age of 20 years and married to Andrew, another Napase brother, in 1844.[61] William was baptised at the same time as his sister Mary in 1840.[62] Emma, Amos, and Simon were all baptised in 1844.[63] Another daughter Peggy was married to John Oig in 1845.[64] If we add the child that had died in 1836 and the stillborn child, then aSo"unZt was the father of sixteen children at the time of his baptism.

Little more is known of aSo"unZt after 1846, but from the information gleaned thus far from existing records, descendants of the Wesley, Nabaise, Amos (Keeauksas), Bell, possibly Oig, and of course Muchikekwanape families should be able to trace their lineage back to him. aSo"unZt was a man with ties in both the Cree and Northern Ojibway communities, whose forebears were a part of a great westward migration that took them far from the lands of their birth to the forests of Northern Manitoba. He was also a strong man, an energetic and capable hunter, who endeavoured to met his obligations, not only to the traders, who supplied him with the European goods he and his family needed to survive, but also to his wives, to whom he was loyal until death, and to his many children whose survival in difficult economic and physical circumstances was probably his greatest achievement. For these many reason, and probably many more that we will never know, his descendants should be honoured to include him among their forebears.



Click on the footnote number to return to the text.

[1] (Provincial Archives of Manitoba (PAM), Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (HBCA), B.154/d/1, fo. 17d/18, Norway House Account Book, 1812-1813). The hunters were recorded alphabetically, rather than being grouped by band in this account book, making it impossible to search for family connections.

[2] Examples include “Misakika nib,” “Mis a keek a neb,” “Meskegunibb.” Variant forms of the name have been italicized in this text to indicate the spelling in the original record.

[3] However, not all had to adopt a new name. After a hundred years of contact and intermarriage with European traders, some of the Cree already had names that originated with their English, French, or Orkney ancestors.

[4] PAM, HBCA, B.154/e/1, Norway House District Report, 1815, by James Sutherland, mf. 1M781.

[5] PAM, HBCA, B.154/e/ 2, Norway House District Report 1823, by Joseph McGillivray, mf. 1M781.

[6] Ibid. The 1815 report listed the specific names of hunters who had come to the post at Jack River, and these were mostly Maskegon or Pelican. The 1823 District Report included these hunters as well as those from the Moose and Kingfisher tribes that traded at Berens River.

Click on the footnote number to return to the text.

[7] However, aSo"unZt and another “Pelican” named “Peke kan” lived in the Maskegon hunting grounds to the north of Jack River House. The only other Pelican identified as living in Cree territory in 1823 was the “Half Breed” Thomas Isham, whose HBC family ties explain his location at “Jack River.”

[8] William Warren W., History of the Ojibway People (1885; reprint, St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1984), 90. The reference to Warren is from Victor P. Lytwyn, Muskekowuck Athinuwick: Original People of the Great Swampy Land (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2002), 41. Lytwyn’s book is a ‘must-read’ book for anyone interested in the history of the Lowland Cree or “Maskegon” and their neighbours. His information on the Pelicans has been invaluable during the writing of this biography of aSo"unZt.)

[9] For a fuller account of this migration, see Lytwyn, 41-50.

[10] Although Lytwyn’s map of the 1782 distribution of the Northern Ojibway extended their territory into the region north and west of Jack River House, he did not include sufficient evidence to prove that this was the case. However, if such penetration did occur, it could only have been temporary, because the “Maskegons” were clearly dominant there by 1823.

[11] Jack River House was along the main transportation route connecting York Factory to Cumberland House, and was ideally placed to receive Maskegon or Swampy Cree immigrants from the Hudson Bay Lowlands, especially after 1796, when the post at Jack River was established. The close trade and family ties between the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Swampy Cree at York Factory explains in part why the “n” dialect of Cree prevailed at Oxford House, Norway House, Grand Rapids, Moose Lake, and Cumberland House. There were other linguistic influences at each of these places, but the “n” dialect of Cree was privileged over all of them because of the long association between the HBC traders and the York Factory Swampy Cree hunters, who moved inland from York Factory in close association with the traders to all of those places in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

[12] As quoted in Lytwyn, 53. For a fuller treatment of the evidence of genetic and linguistic mixing between the Lowland Cree and Northern Ojibway, see Lytwyn, 52-54.

[13] Jacobs seems to have been able to detect both Cree (Upland Cree) and Swampy Cree (Maskegon) influences on the dialect spoken at Norway House. This indicates that there were recognisable dialectic variations between them.

[14] See PAM, HBCA, B.154/d/2b, fo. 4d (1814-1815); B.154/d/3b, p. 36 (1816-1817); B.154/d/5, fo. 59d (1817-1818); B.154/d/7, fo. 77d (1818-1819); B.154/d/9, fo. 31 (1821-1822), Norway House Account Books, mf. 1M541. The only exception was in 1822, when “Mis a keek a neb” was listed above “Keekeek wathinish,” a detail that may indicate the younger man assuming leadership of Keekeek wathinish’s band.

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[15] According to Joseph Robson, whose account of life in Hudson Bay was published in 1752, it was customary “for the man upon his marriage to leave his own friends, and live with his wife’s father.” See Joseph Robson, An Account of Six Years Residence in Hudson’s Bay, From 1733 to 1736, and 1744 to 1747 (London: J. Payne and J. Bouquet, 1752), 52. In 1815 at Jack River House, James Sutherland wrote disapprovingly that “the boys before they come to the age of puberty get a girl for their intended wife, then they invariably attach themselves to her relations & become careless & neglectful of those that brought them into existence.” See PAM, HBCA, B.154/e/1, fo. 5d, Norway House District Report, 1815, mf. 1M781.

[16] For more details on the life of Keekeewathinish, go here.

[17] See Lytwyn, 51-52, for an example of the hostility between the Cree of Oxford House and the Northern Ojibway of the Island Lake country.

[18] Lytwyn, 53.

[19] Ibid., 162-163.

[20] There is evidence that Kee kee wa thinish and his band were north of Cross Lake in the 1780s and escaped the smallpox epidemic altogether. Survival enabled them to move south and fill the void left by the deaths of so many hunters there, a process that would have placed them in direct contact with survivors. (link to Kee kee wa thinish file)

[21] If indeed aSo"unZt married his first wife in about 1814, as suggested by the sparse evidence available to us, he was probably a young man, because it was customary at that time for Cree men to marry while still in their teens. This would mean he was born sometime in the 1790s, well after the smallpox epidemic itself, but certainly early enough to have benefited from the closer relationships between the Cree and Northern Ojibway that probably developed after the epidemic.

[22] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/10, p. 32, Norway House Post Journal, 1822-1823, mf. 1M106. “Before breakfast [22 November 1822] PekaKan and wife came to the H[ouse]... His son in law Mis-a Ka Kaneb has 4 Skins of his credit at the time the old man left him.”

[23] “Bungee” was a term used in reference to the Northern Ojibway. The letter states that “No Bungee Indians have visited York this season except Peekekan and his Son...” See PAM, HBCA, B.239/b/57, fo. 29d, York Factory Correspondence, 1795-1796, Joseph Colen to John Ballenden at Severn, 18 July 1796.

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[24] At 10 a.m. on the 27 March 1795, “an Indian called Pe,ke,cawne,cap-po” arrived at Portage de L’Ile with fur valued at 20 Made Beaver. See PAM, HBCA, B.166/a/3, fo. 14, Portage de L’ile Journal, 1794-1795, mf. 1M119.

[25] PAM, HBCA, B.86/a/14, fo. 24, Henley House, 1767-1768, mf. 1M60. If “Captain Pickican” was a young man, say 25 years of age, in 1768, he would have been 80 in 1823, so it is possible that he and “Peke Kan” were one and the same.

[26] For instance, Matche Huggemaw, or the Bad Governor, traded between 1791 and 1794 with HBC trader John Best at Red Lake. (PAM, HBCA, B.177/a/2, fo. 2d, Red Lake Post Journal, 1791-1792; B.177/a/3. fo. 12d, 1792-93; B.177/a/4, fo. 12, 1793-94, mf. 1M119). When Best moved west to Lake Winnipeg in 1794-1796, Matche Huggemaw and his band followed and hunted for him at the mouths of the Bloodvein and Dauphin rivers. (PAM, HBCA, B.254/a/1, fo. 4, Blood River Post Journal, 1794-1795, mf. 1M16 and PAM, HBCA, B.51/a/1, fo. 18, Fort Dauphin Post Journal, 1795-1796, mf. 1M41).

[27] On 8 June 1768, “att Ten A.M. Arriv’d here Capn. Pickican &….they were all of them clothed in English Or French Clothing, Nay Indeed they did Not deny their Trading with them…they Said if there were Goods here for them to Trade, that they wold Not Trade with them French.” See PAM, HBCA, B.86/a/14, fo. 24, Henley House, 1767-1768, mf. 1M60.

[28] See PAM, HBCA, B.154/d/2b, fo. 53, Norway House Accounts, 1814-1815, mf. 1M541, and all subsequent debt lists up to 1822. These are listed in Note 13.

[29] He definitely had some kind of association with the Oxford House Cree, because three of his sons-in-law, the Nabaise brothers, were originally from there.

[30] In 1796, the HBC post manager at Cross Lake complained that “Kekethine has behaved very badly since he left the Factory. He has tricked me out of 30 Beaver in debt and has drawn every Indian that he could to the Canadian House.” The Canadian House, of course, was the NWC post of William McKay. (HBCA, PAM, B.239/b/57, fo. 13d, York Factory Correspondence, James Tate to Joseph Colen, 26 May 1796).

[31] Pekekan also had a second “son” named Necan nee, who had three wives, five sons and three daughters. He was also a “Pelican,” but he was hunting to the east of Norway House at “Jack Lake.”

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[32] PAM, HBCA, B.154/d/10, fo. P. 32, Norway House Post Journal, 1822-1823, entry for 22 November 1822.

[33] PAM, HBCA, B.154/d/10, fo. 51, Norway House Post Journal, 1822-1823, entry for 20 March 1823.

[34] He was still hunting there in 1829. On March 16, for instance, “2 Indians arrived late last night, from the little winipic & 2 more (Meskegunibb & North winds son) arrived this morning the former brought 18 otters for 1 article & the latter brought about 800 Rats.” See PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/16, fo. 25, Norway House Journal, 1828-1829, mf. 1M107.

[35] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/17, fo. 19, Norway House Journal, 13 Sep 1830-31 May 1831, mf. 1M107.

[36] Ibid, fo. 20. Nearby Playgreen Lake would have been the lake to which he referred.

[37] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/17, fo. 30, Norway House Journal, 13 Sep 1830-31 May 1831, mf. 1M107, and PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/18, fo. 32, Norway House Journal, 11 June 1830 - 17 Nov 1831, mf. 1M107.

[38] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/18, fo. 41, Norway House Journal, 11 June 1830-17 Nov 1831, mf. 1M107.

[39] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/19, fo. 60d, Norway House Journal, 18 June 1830-31 Dec 1831, commencing on the 18th June by John McLeod C.F., 30 August by J. Ballenden, Clerk; and 13 Sept by D. Ross, C. F., mf. 1M107, and PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/20, fo. 32d, 36, 39, Norway House Journal, 1 June 1831-31 May 1832, mf. 1M107).

[40] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/21, fo. 25d, Norway House Journal, 1 Nov 1831 - 5 Aug 1832, mf. 1M107.

[41] See HBC journal entries at Norway House on 20 December 1832, 26 March 1833, and 27 May 1833 in PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/22, fos. 25, 41d, Norway House Journal, 1 June 1832 - 31 May 1833, mf. 1M107, and entry for 27 September 1833 in PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/23, fo. 70, Norway House Journal, 1 Jan 1832 - 3 Oct 1833, mf. 1M107.

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[42] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/24, fo. 61 and 88, Norway House Journal, 1 June 1833 - 31 May 1834, mf. 1M107.

[43] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/26, p. 49, Norway House Journal, 1 June 1835-31 May 1836, mf. 1M107.

[44] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/28, fo. 8, Norway House Journal, 22 Nov 1835-1837, mf. 1M107.

[45] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/26, p. 69.

[46] PAM, HBCA, B.154/a/28, fo. 19

[47] Ibid.

[48] By 1840, Norway House had become the inland transhipment centre for the distribution of European trade goods from York Factory to its posts along the Hayes and Saskatchewan Rivers and to the Red River Settlement. The York boats carrying the goods were manned by Cree tripmen, who travelled back and forth along the rivers and lakes each summer until the 1870s and 1880s, when railroads became the main transportation arteries for manufactured goods.

[49] For a detailed account of the Christian mission at Norway House in the summer of 1840, see Chapter 2, “The Norway House Cree: Culture and Conversion” in Raymond Morris Shirritt-Beaumont, “The Rossville Scandal, 1846: James Evans, the Cree, and a Mission on Trial” (Master’s thesis, University of Manitoba-Winnipeg, 2001), 33-53.

[50] Flora, daughter of aSo"unZt (Mā-chi-ki-h-kwah nā-p) Majegegounab (Mā-chi-ki-kwah-nā-p in syllablics), Norway House, 25 Years, baptised 1 July 1840 by Robert T. Rundle. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 37, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889). Flora was married to “Boodjum” a son of “Old Nicaway,” the hunter to whom aSo"unZt went for relief in 1837 when his family was starving. Evidently, she and her husband had been influenced by Adam Moody, Boodjum’s brother, who had been baptised earlier that year at Red River and told Rundle at his first meeting that “he was very desirous of being instructed in the Xtian religion.” See Hugh A. Dempsey, ed., The Rundle Journals, 1840-1848 (Calgary: Historical Society of Alberta, 1977): 23.

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[51] Dempsey, The Rundle Journals, 28-29.

[52] On 21 July 1840, Rundle recorded, “She at first ridiculed the advice of Flora when she told her of the good news but tonight she was found a weeping penitent at the feet of Jesus.” (Dempsey, The Rundle Journals, 29) Mary, daughter of sAonZt [Mi-chā-ki-kwah-nā-p] and Sjh [Chi-saa-s], aged 13, baptised 10 Aug 1840 by James Evans. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 86, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889). The church register is incorrect. Mary and her brother William were baptised August 16 by Robert Rundle. See Dempsey, The Rundle Journals, 34.

[53] Jane, former wife of old asounit [Ma-mi-ki-kwah-nā-p], adult, “Died of the Measels” July 18, Rossville, baptised 12 July 1846 by Wm Mason. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 576, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889).

[54] In a letter, dated 13 July 1846, from William Mason to Donald Ross, Chief Factor at the HBC Post of Norway House, it states “Old Majekequanab’s wife was delivered of a still born infant yesterday evening - so we are literally surrounded with the sick, the dying, & the dead...” and on 20 July 1846, Mason wrote Ross that “the body of the late wife of Majekewanab” was interred “last evening.” See British Columbia Archives (BCA), AE.R73.M38, Donald Ross Papers. It is to Mason’s credit that he bypassed church rules in this instance and baptised the dying woman in spite of the fact that she was still aSo"unZt’s wife. (Click on the footnote number to return to the text.)

[55] Wesleyan Missionary Society (WMS), William Mason to Secretaries, 15 Dec 1846.

[56] PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, Nos. 582-587 respectively, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889.

[57] BCA. AE.R73.M38, Donald Ross Paper, William Mason to Donald Ross, 27 January 1847.

[58] Mary aSo"unZt was married to Amos Keakesas oRojh (Kee-aa-ki-saa-s), boatman, at Rossville on 18 Feb 1844 by James Evans. (PAM, R145, GR1212, Item 13, No. 61, Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Marriages, 1840-1893, Norway House Marriages 1840-1847 and Oxford House 1855-1893).

[59] John Vqlh [Nah-pay-si-s], baptised by William Mason at Norway House, 1 Sep 1844. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 422, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889)

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[60] Eliza, daughter of aSounZt [Mā-chi-ki-kwah-nā-p], Norway House, aged 13 yrs, baptised 6 June 1842 by Jas. Evans.” (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 327, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889). Her husband was baptised John sVWnQt [Mi-nah-wee-way-t]son of Mark and Martha Vwh [Naa-pay-s], aged 17 years, baptised by James Evans at Norway House, 8 Oct 1843. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 397) John was listed at “Mee nah way hoot,” son of “Nappaish” on the 1838 Census at Oxford House. John Vwh [Naa-pay-s], labourer, Rossville, was married to Eliza aSo"unZt on 22 April 1846 by James Evans. (PAM, GR1212, Item 13, No 88, Wesleyan Methodist Marriage Register, Norway House, 1840-1846, and Oxford House, 1855-1893).

[61] Agnes, daughter of aSounZt [Mā-chi-ki-kwah-nā-p], Norway House, aged 20 yrs, baptised 28 May 1843 by Jas. Evans. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 378, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889) Andrew Napase (Vwh) boatman, Rossville, married Agnes Mā-chi-ki-h-kwah-nā-p (aSo"unZt) 11 Mar 1844 by James Evans. (PAM, GR1212, Item 13, No 65, Wesleyan Methodist Marriage Register, Norway House, 1840-1846, and Oxford House, 1855-1893).

[62] William, son of sAonZt [Mi-chā-ki-kwah-nā-p] and Sjh [Chi-saa-s], aged 11, baptised 10 Aug 1840 by James Evans. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 85, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889). William “Muchekoonipe” or “MesaKiKoonap” was a bowsman working for the HBC at Cumberland House between 1861 and 1863 (PAM, HBCA, B.49/z/1, fo. 16-16d, 17, and 20, Cumberland House Miscellaneous Items, 1817-1870, mf. 1M874).

[63] Emma aSounZt [Mā-chi-ki-kwah-nā-p], aged 11, Amos aSounZt [Mā-chi-ki-kwah-nā-p], aged 10, and Simon aSounZt [Mā-chi-ki-kwah-nā-p], aged 7, were all baptised 20 July 1844 by James Evans. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, Nos. 418-420 respectively, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889) Emma Mechahkekwuneb, Norway House, Rossville, was married at Cumberland Station, to Charles Bell, Wahpahskwayahw, Cumberland Mission, on 5 July 1849, by James Hunter. Witness: Henry Budd. (Diocese of Brandon, Cumberland Mission, Diocese of Rupert’s Land, Register of Marriages, No. 77, p. 26) As yet nothing further has been discovered about Amos or Simon.

[64] John Oeg (Elder), boatman, Rossville, was married 18 October 1845 to Peggy aSo"unZt on 18 October 1845 by James Evans. (PAM, GR1212, Item 13, No 87, Wesleyan Methodist Marriage Register, Norway House, 1840-1846, and Oxford House, 1855-1893). John and Peggy (his second wife) had a daughter Jane baptised at 2 days of age on 13 September 1846 by William Mason. (PAM, GR 1212, Item 10, No. 589, Norway House Wesleyan Methodist Mission, Register of Baptisms, 1840-1889) Peggy must have died, because John Oig, Senior, married for a third time on 2 August 1847. (PAM, GR1212, Item 13, No 98, Wesleyan Methodist Marriage Register, Norway House, 1840-1846, and Oxford House, 1855-1893)



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